Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Xolox, Level one, Beneath the Maiden [MAP]

A spiral stair found within the structure known as the Maiden, leads down into the darkness, and into what was once the true abode of the space vampires. They lived, fed, worshiped their obscene martian gods and exercised their unholy science within these tunnels, leading some scholars to believe that the architecture of Under Xolos is a physical reflection of the aggression, paranoia, isolation and lust that are said to lie at the core of every vampire.

Once the vampires ruled Satan's Spine, but the waxing of the sun brought them down. Here though, at Xolos, isolated from even the wasteland by the lethal vapors of the Blacksmoke sea, one must wonder: what secrets, what treasures, what power might linger?

Larger version HERE.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Humans as a class, the Endless- reskinning the B/X elf

The Endless

Requirements: INT 9
Prime Requisite: STR and INTa
Hit Dice: 1d6
XP to second level: 4300

Before their empires crumbled, humans perfected the science of life extension. Although there are (or may be) a few remaining breeder populations, a major subset of the extant human population consists of ancient survivors of the forgotten past. And that past is truly forgotten, because, as it turns out, it is very difficult for humans to retain memories for more than a couple of hundred years. As a result, the Endless periodically enter a period known as the fugue, where they forget themselves and must begin anew. 

Although personal memories are often reduced to images or short, difficult to interpret mnemonic flashes, not everything is lost; in fact, some things are never wholly forgotten.  Endless never forget the basics of combat and magic use. They can wield any weapon and wear any armor, in addition to casting spells as a sorcerer. For the Endless, the process of level progression is more of a process of recollection than one of new skill acquisition.
Endless advance in combat as Adventurers and may select one advantage from the Adventurer list every three levels (beginning with level 3). [Adventurers will be covered in an upcoming post].

An Endless must have at least 13 in both prime requisites in order to get the +5% to experience. They must also have an INT of 16 and a STR of 13 to get the +10% bonus.
Endless have darkvision of 60 feet, and have keen eyes that allow them, when actively searching, to detect hidden and secret doors with a roll of 1-2 on 1d6. Because of their altered physiques, endless are completely unaffected by the paralysis ghouls and other undead can inflict.

Pretty sure I pinched at least a line or two directly from Labyrinth Lord's Elf class.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Districts of Skull: The North Gallery and the Kennel

Map of Skull
The North Gallery:
This neighborhood occupies the north central area of the city, north of the Canal of the Moon and roughly bounded by the Lesser Ziggurat in the east and the Kennel in the west. Streets and tenements in this area tend to have poetic names, which sometimes seem ironic given their generally dilapidated state; the vegetation in the North Gallery, while kept from completely overwhelming the avenues, is otherwise largely allowed to grow unchecked. Creepers crawl up the sides of nearly every building and weeds of every variety trust up through cracks in the ancient pavement.
This Gallery is the most densely populated section of the city, with most of its residents crammed into over-crowded multi story tenements., or, as is the case with the slaves, kept below ground in the green shaft.  Despite the ubiquity of coster mongers selling various kinds of food (mostly a dubious sort of sausage served on algae bread) the majority of the population subsists for the most part on pap and water. There is a little money here though, as the Kennel employs grooms from amongst the laborer caste and skilled workers from the artisan class. With the exception of the lanes and streets surrounding the Kennel and the Lesser Ziggurat, nymphs are in abundance, although, unlike their counterparts in forecourt the nymphs are named and attached to families. Priest tend to move through this neighborhood in force. 

The Kennel
This is large long building belongs to the Dogmen and their charges the Nuerohounds.  The Dogmen are males of the mixed humanoid type generally known as the blend, although there are a few other types in the corps as well.
Priests, regardless of their ministry, stay away as the predilection of the neurohounds to snatch and kill nymphs without warning or provocation has resulted in the deaths of many of their number. Of course unaffiliated and family nymphs do not approach the Kennel or its immediate vicinity.
The taverns frequented by the Dogmen and their servitors are among the most relaxed places in the city. Regular citizens and visitors must be wary, however, as more than the occasional visit to these places will attract the interest of the Ministry of Control. This interest is more than just bureaucratic interference however, as this section of the city conceals the heart of the city’s underworld/black market.

Sunday, October 7, 2012


Metal Earth contains several elements that might be considered anachronistic.

Rock Bands: Several 20th- 21st century style rock bands continuously tour Satan’s Spine.  Often they engage in blood feud with one another.

Cigarettes: Mass market pre-rolled cigarettes are commonly available throughout Satan’s spine. Tobacco is produced primarily at S’zan, although a small amount is exported from  Rax-Ur as well.

Movies:  Accompanying caravans or moving about on their own, independent projectionists travel from settlement to settlement with old style movie projectors and their precious collections of films, mostly westerns, mostly sub-titled in half a dozen forgotten languages, which they display for the edification and entertainment of the latter day masses. Usually projectionists, or their assistants, will stand beside the screen and recite a narrative poem which explains the events in the film. Most of these poems are thousands of years old and passed down through time by the Projectionists Guild. 

I'll add to this list as time goes on. 

What kind of anachronisms do you have in your game?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Statblocks for dungeon rooms:


An example

8. Office of the Chef
Illumination: None
Smell: A hint of corruption.
Hazards: Quiet ones, see paragraphs 1 and 2; pan rack, see paragraph 3

As the PCs enter this room, four Quiet Ones shamble towards them out of the darkness- unless they have already attacked during the fight with the feathered serpent in area 7.
A large writing desk dominates the southern wall. 

Quiet Ones
AC 5[14] HD:1 Move: 8, Attack: Spiked limbs 1d6, Special:  quiet ones project a 10’ sphere of silence
Countless spikes (each identical to the one found in on the floor of area 1) pierce the desiccated, rotting corpses of these shambling undead sasquatch. The shimmering remnants of their defiled souls flicker and flash over their patchy rotten pelts like unholy lightning.

A rack of gold and silver pots and pans lines the entire length of the eastern wall. It is rickety.  If any one attempts to remove a single pot or pan the entire rack will fall across the entire room, inflicting everyone 2d6 damage on everyone within; ST for ½ damage.

The benefit is the presentation of the salient aspects of the room in an ‘at a glance’ format, which can help to limit missed and/or forgotten details.

Other stats could be added, such as an arbitrary danger scale, or treasure. Furthermore, not all rooms will require the same statblock, each can be tailored for the individual room, presenting only what is deemed necessary by the DM.

Skull: The Lesser Ziggurat

Map to the left, third from the top.

The Lesser Ziggurat:
A step pyramid built of starstone, the Lesser Ziggurat houses the ancient oracular god-creature known as the Mollusk and his devotees, the Mollusk Maidens. Travelers come from all over the Spine, and perhaps beyond (if such places exist outside the tales of children) come to Skull in order to receive the Mollusk’s wisdom.
The Mollusk is served by the Mollusk Maidens, a diverse cadre of a dozen women with reputably formidable sorcerous and martial abilities.
Coil’s relationship with the Mollusk is poorly understood, and is a subject of great deal of debate amongst scholars.  The current theory, constructed from half remembered accounts of the Fugue, is that the origins of Coil, The Mollusk and the great skull are linked in some way.
The price of the oracle is usually a powerful magic/technological item and 100,000 pieces of gold. However, it has been known to go for far more, and occasionally seemingly nothing at all. 

I've made some changes  to the layout of the blog and switched out the header. There are maps linked to the left and some of my art to the right. Hopefully, it's not all too much of an eyesore.

Skull: The Canals, the Nursery and the most wonderful day of the year!

Map of Skull

Three posts in three days- can you dig it?

The Canals:
Linked at the Nursery, The Canal of the Sun and the Canal of the Moon provide a convenient way to move goods and people through the city. Although there are only two permanent bridges  (as pictured on the map) one for each canal, temporary wooden bridges are often in service. Coil, however, has a tendency to smash them every now and again- for reasons no one really understands. 

The Nursery:
This huge artificial pool serves as a public bath, a juncture between the Skull’s two major canal systems and as an egg bed for Coil. On any given day dozens of gondolas (private and for hire), hundreds of swimmers and countless nymphs frolic and cavort in the clear water at the surface, seemingly oblivious to the thousands and thousands of fist sized translucent eggs clustered  in twisted pulsating lumps, like some unwholesome coral reef, along the uneven floor of the pool.

Every spring the Nursery hosts a ritual bloody enough to rival any in the Earth’s history; the eggs hatch and countless nymph-hatchlings swarm into the water of the Nursery. Thousands of slaves are forced into the pool to feed the ravenous hatchlings, earning the ritual its sobriquet, the Blood Bath. When the feeding frenzy is done, nothing remains of the sacrificed slaves but a greasy slick on the churning surface of the pool.  Once the hatchlings are sated, they become torpid and sluggish. At this time Coil descends from its place atop the grand Ziggurat and rampages through the Grove eating or just killing anyone unwise (or unlucky) enough to cross its path. Upon arriving at the Nursery, Coil plunges into water and eats the vast majority of the nymphs in a second and even more violent orgy of consumption. Crowds of loyal citizens watch the entire spectacle whilst picnicking in the square to the East of the Nursery. The nymphs that survive the ritual become part of the city's population.

The end of all things...
As of now, this blog is entering its final year. I have given myself twelve months to finish up here and then I'm going to move on. I have decided to focus my creativity in another direction.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Districts of Skull: the Dunes and the Blind

Map of Skull

The Dunes
A small settlement of shanties, inns and warehouses, known as the Dunes, lies in the shadow of Skull. By the consent of Coil, three insector hive-brothers govern there. Merchants unwilling to enter Skull (there are many), deep desert nomads, salvage prospectors and drifters account for much of the town’s transient population; however the Ministry of Control and the Dogmen both maintain a visible presence and act as a constant reminder of Coil's power. There are several taverns and rooming houses- kept separate, as per the Insector custom. The Dunes is notorious for its population of lawlessness rapacious vermin. More than one unwary traveler has fallen asleep in the Dunes and awoken to find herself covered in sand leaches or linked to a slave chain bound for Skull.

The Blind:
Due to the angle at which the god-skull rests on the desert surface, the lower orbit of the right eye socket is situated but three chains from ground level. An ancient stair, carved into the eyesocket leads from the desert floor up into Skull proper and the Ministry of Control's (MoC) fortified checkpoint. The MoC must vet all visitors to the city. Only those who can prove they have business in the city, or wish to become citizens are allowed beyond this point and into the Forecourt. Merchants are directed to the Exchange and prospective citizens are led off to the Tower of Control for processing. Nymphs, free and bonded, are everywhere here, scurrying and watching as they always do.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Deep Desert Gazetteer Part I

This is a first pass. No doubt, it will mutate and expand before we get started with the game.


12. Located at the northeastern base of the Hellhole, 12 is a Scorn settlement cluster, consisting of several large dome habitats and a number of underground complexes. The aliens represent the strongest military presence within the Black Smoke Sea, but they cannot be said to truly control the region. The Airlords trade with the Scorn, but neither the Herd nor the Trund do so.

Battlefield Reach:  The trackless, monster infested, radioactive wasteland known as Battlefield Reach sprawls across the ruins of what was once a great super-technological metropolis. Ranging from scrap metal to ancient coins to wondrous items of every possible description, the treasure yielded up by these ruins draws a steady stream of scavengers from across the length and breadth of Satan’s Spine.  Most of the scavenger bands meet up in and operate out of Great Stone Ship.

The Black Smoke Sea:  Comprised primarily of cursed noxious vapors, toxic volcanic gas and malignant spectral plasm, the Black Smoke Sea occupies a great basin situated between the Western Mountains and the Cracked Land. Hazards abound, above, within and beneath the sea’s deadly black clouds. In addition to the unwholesome atmosphere, mysterious tribes and savage, twisted monstrosities evolved to survive in the poisonous environment inhabit and hunt the basin’s floor; violent seismic activity is frequent; and angry spirits filter and prowl through the gaseous murk, jealous of the living and eager to feast upon them.

The Bleak Mountains: High Windy and cold, the Bleak Mountains, present a marked contrast to the heat and aridity of the desert lowlands, but represent an environment as harsh and hostile to life as any in the region.  During the first decades of their lives, before they depart for the stars, many rocs make their nests on some of the higher peaks.

The remoteness and inaccessibility of the chain makes it an ideal refuge. The Dark Mark (an assassins’ guild) the Cult of Gllorr’r (a vile religion centered around an ancient Martian fertility deity) and countless dark wizards are said to have strongholds, hidden away within the mountain fastness. The White Apes have a city, Krag, halfway up the slope of the Thorn, the highest peak in the chain. 

The Cracked Land:  Boulder fields, volcanic vents and uneven, fissured plains of obsidian make up most of the Cracked Land. Magma elementals live and war amongst themselves in the deeper fissures. Loosely knit Sasquatch motorcycle gangs compete with a savage confederation of Minotaur road warrior tribes for control of the area. Each group lives a nomadic lifestyle, growing food in special oversized trucks and drawing on geothermal heat to power their vehicles.  There are no known permanent settlements.

Demon’s Beach: Once the floor of a long forgotten sea, Demon’s Beach is now a vast and flat expanse of crusted salt. The sun pummels the plain with savage, unrelenting intensity. Little lives above ground. However, a vast network of linked natural and artificial caverns, known as the Etros, lies buried deep beneath most of the salt flat. Many dangerous creatures live here. In most of the rest of Satan’s Spine it is commonly believed that Etros is where the souls of the dead reside. Little is known about the nameless domes in the northeastern expanse of Deamon’s Beach.

Great Stone Ship: A titanic sea-going vessel of unknown origin and purpose, Great Stone Ship lies on the desert floor, marking out the northeast boundary of Battlefield Reach. At the base of the ship, in the shade on its northern side, crouches a lowdown settlement of scavengers and prospectors. It is here that the narcotic telouze is manufactured, distilled from a viscous black ooze that rises up from lesions in the earth, found in secret caverns either beneath or nearby the ship.  As with most aspects of life at Great Stone Ship, the Telouze trade is tightly controlled by the local chapter of the Rogue’s Knot.

Krag:  Halfway up the slopes of the mountain called Thorn, the White ape city of Krag resides at roughly 350 chains (23,000 feet/7010 meters) above sea level. Although considered somewhat reclusive, the yeti trade with both the Airlords and the Nuphal; however such is not the case regarding the Trund with whom the residents of Krag have an age long enmity. The city’s defenses are considered to be invulnerable, and the Snow Guard, Krag’s army, second to none; however, it is not military prowess for which the city is known, but for sorcery.  While the white apes remain aloof, and officially neutral in regards to politics, individual brothers of Thorn’s Shadow (the city’s fraternal order of sorcerers) are employed as viziers in nearly every court across the breadth of Satan’s Spine.

Port: What is left of the ancient city of Port can be found near the summit of a low mountain rising up from the bone white plain of Demon’s Beach. This lonely mountain was once a small island, but the land lifted and the sea receded, leaving the city marooned far inland.

Due to its altitude, Port has a milder climate than the desert below.  Life flourishes there. The city has two functioning ag-caverns and access to clean water.  Seeing a chance for sustained survival, if not endless wealth, several factions vie for control of the ancient ruins. The rat folk are probably the strongest group, but several individual monsters rival them in power. Port is one of the few places with easily found access to the Etros.

Rrouz: Famed for its smithies and their wares, Rrouz is also the home to many artisans, artificers and craftsmen of all sorts. The city is nominally under Shae control, but taxes are used to pay tribute to Skull and in reality the ruling council is little more than a puppet government; it is Coil who actually controls Rrouz.  Despite this affiliation, the city is far less oppressive than Skull itself. Many expatriates live in a small neighborhood called Skull-town. Everyone trades at R’Rouz.

Skull: Located deep within the Anvil of Sun and ruled over by the devious and gleefully malignant centipede creature known as Coil, Skull is a city built inside the final remaining relic of a long dead god. Despite Skull’s location at the center of the waste, cool air flows through its neighborhoods and lush tropical growth looms over its sparkling canals; further, the city boasts some of the most productive agricultural caverns (green shafts) on the continent.  This fecundity can be attributed in part to vast subterranean sea located far below Skull’s bustling streets, and on which the plants and people of Skull depend upon more than any other resource for their survival. It is perhaps the largest source of untainted water on the continent, maybe the world. Another contributing factor is the vast god skull itself; its osseus dome is semi translucent, blocking the worst effects of the sun, yet allowing sufficient light through to nourish the gardens below.

The Skrag:  A generally flat, but somewhat rolling expanse of sage steppe, the Skrag supports a surprising array of life forms. Beneficiaries of rainfall and runoff patterns, scrub and cactus grow in abundance sufficient to support large herbivores and their attendant predators. During lean times, hunters from all over the deep desert will cross over to the Skrag to look for game. This is a dangerous practice, however; the native predators are clever and bloodthirsty opportunists, who wont hesitate to turn a competitor into a meal.

For now, just an inked version of the picture from my last post.